Come 2021, what bags will you be carrying?
The Spring/Summer 2021 shows gave us a pretty good idea. From New York to Paris, fashion brands played it safe by reworking signature bag designs. Burberry introduced a new Pocket Bag, Matthew M. Williams tweaked the Givenchy Antigona bag to fit his industrial-chic aesthetic, and Dior had various styles of the Dior Book Tote and Lady D-Lite for fans to add to their collection.
This season, there was also a play in size. Some designers went big, like Valentino, Khaite and Peter Do, all of whom presented larger-than-life leather handbags to tote around. You could fit Chanel’s entire range of tiny, charm-sized bags (similar to the AirPod cases they unveiled last month) in one of those. Creative director Virginie Viard had scaled down the Maison’s iconic quilted purses to hang from belts and chain necklaces, opting for playfulness, not practicality.
One major bag trend that straddled both was the woven bag, spotted at Loewe, Fendi, Dior and more. There were structured baskets, which we’ve been seeing for a while now, as well as more relaxed, netted bag styles that recalled the shopping bags you would find at a farmer’s market. These are a little more luxe, of course, offered in woven leather options like at Valentino, or embellished with crystals as seen at Burberry (Riccardo Tisci cannot say no to a little bit of glamour).
Below, we highlight all the best bags of the S/S 2021 season. Take notes: you’re going to see them everywhere next year.
As the sold-out designs at Burberry’s Animal Kingdom Showcase tell us, the popularity of the Pocket Bag shows no sign of waning. In fact, it has even inspired the rise of super-slim tote styles, which were spotted at S/S 2021 shows like Hermes, Givenchy and Fendi. Good thing that creative director Riccardo Tisci has decided to offer the British brand’s archival bag for yet another season, this time in sandy Burberry beige, a neutral hue that will go with everything.
Does the fashion brand behind the world’s most coveted bag need to introduce a new one? Not really, but Hermes did it anyway. There were no Birkins in sight at the brand’s S/S 2021 show, but there was the “Perspective Cavalière” shoulder bag, an asymmetric design that appears flat (its name and design is inspired by the play of perspectives). The everyday style will be offered in two sizes and various colours like red, black and brown.
Creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli has pulled a Daniel Lee. That is, he has taken a signature house code (the Valentino Rockstud, in his case) and supersized it. The result is the “Roman Stud”, which has birthed a new line of shoulder bags carried by leather handles or chains, as well as a really, really big tote. “I love the fact that you can resignify your past without being too nostalgic,” said the Italian designer. That’s especially true of the Roman Stud shoulder bag completely covered in macro gold studs, which is sculptural enough to rival the cult favourites of Bottega Veneta.
The idea of the Prada backpack has remained the same since Miuccia Prada introduced it in 1984: it’s black, made of nylon, and devoid of any ornamentation except for the brand’s tiny triangle logo. Raf Simons, Prada’s new co-creative director, has changed that with his debut at the brand. He introduced a white version, lined with leather handles and printed with cryptic graphics courtesy of his longtime artist collaborator, Peter De Potter. The streetwear-leaning crowd is probably going to eat this up.
Like Burberry and Dior, Balmain has finally gotten in on the trend of reviving archival monograms. Creative director Olivier Rousteing looked to the PB monogram of the 1970s, which incorporated founder Pierre Balmain’s initials in a labyrinth-inspired pattern. For S/S 2021, the monogram graced everything from pagoda-shouldered suits to bags, most notably the Jacquard 1945 baguette bag. (Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez are already fans.)
Givenchy’s new creative director, Matthew M. Williams, isn’t doing monograms. Instead, he has introduced hardware details like locks and chains to the French brand’s signature Antigona bags — both the oversized leather totes and the smaller, Antigona Soft handbag, whose handles have been elongated. For the latter, the version in reflective gold croc leather, clasped with a Givenchy logo lock, is sure to be a signature for the brand next season.
Louis Vuitton, too, unveiled a very shiny bag for S/S 2021. The one in question is the Coussin bag, a soft, quilted leather tote very much in the vein of Bottega Veneta’s Pouch and Pillow bags. The difference is that Louis Vuitton’s version is embossed with its monogram (similar to the effect of the French brand’s Empreinte leather) and features chunky chains in gold and silver. The Coussin bag comes in a futuristic silver style, as well as subtle cream one.
Fendi’s S/S 2021 show centred on lightness, which is why several of the bags, including the Peekaboo, were layered with romantic, embroidered silk veils. But it’s a sheer Baguette bag that stole the show: it was made with delicate, tombolo aquilano sugar-coated lace by artisans in Abruzzo, using a lace weaving technique from the 15th century. While a featherweight, the dreamy design is heavy on Fendi’s craftsmanship skills, making it a prize for serious bag collectors.
Dior has given its Dior Book Tote new life in the form of a leather version. There was an emphasis on craftsmanship this season, as seen in the intricate floral pattern that is both embossed and laser-cut on the bag’s leather façade. The romantic design is toughened by the rows of metal studs that line the bag, making for a very sturdy travel bag.
Loewe did the opposite of what Dior did: it took a beloved leather bag and made it soft. This season, creative director Jonathan Anderson has given the Ondas Flamenco Clutch a plush touch by crafting it out of pastel suede. The result is an alluring bag to rival all the other pillow-like ones that are already being offered.
Creative director Virginie Viard injected a dose of fun in Chanel’s bags this season, offering styles that are tiny (but pretty) or embellished with pearls. A standout design was the new take on Chanel’s classic leather flap bag, presented in a vibrant shade of pink.
Header photo credit: Givenchy